Age plays a most important part in stroke. Research indicates that about 75 percent of strokes occur in people 65 or older. In other words, stroke is an increasing problem the older we get.
Every year, stroke affects about 800,000 people in the US and is estimated to occur at the rate of one person every 40 seconds. About three-quarters of the annual strokes (600,000) are first-time strokes and the other quarter are recurrent attacks. Most stroke incidents are first-time episodes. Research indicates that over 75 percent of stroke victims survive a first stroke during the first year.
Stroke is among the top leading causes of disability and reduced quality of life. Older people are at higher risk of mortality, poorer functional outcomes, and prolonged stays in hospital.
However, only about 18 percent of strokes are fatal. And because many people survive a stroke, we emphasise the importance of getting immediate help when a stroke occurs. It is all about recognising the early signs and thinking prevention.
What is a Stroke?
A stroke is a condition where there is a sudden disruption to a certain part of the brain. Strokes can be hemorrhagic or non-hemorrhagic and often result in an interruption of blood supply to the brain. A stroke can cause temporary or permanent loss of movement, speech, memory, and sensation. Stroke can also alter the person’s ability to function normally and perform their day-to-day activities.
3 Types of Stroke
Ischemic stroke – results from a clot that blocks the blood flow to the brain.
Hemorrhagic stroke – results from when an artery in the brain leaks blood or ruptures. The blood will then put too much pressure on brain cells, which damages them.
Transient ischemic attack (TIA) or mini-stroke – results from temporary blood clots or low blood flow to the brain. It usually lasts for no more than 5 minutes.
Certain factors may put the elderly at risk for having strokes. Some of these risk factors include:
- A family history of strokes
- Atrial fibrillation (heart disorder)
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Carotid artery disease
- Smoking and excessive alcohol consumption
It is also important to note that seniors (65 or older) are more likely to have a stroke than younger adults. Reports show that women experience them more frequently than men. Oddly enough, strokes are most frequently occur on Mondays rather than any other days of the week.
Stroke comes with its own warning signs. Here are 5 subtle signs of stroke in the elderly to watch out for:
1. Numbness in the face and limbs, most commonly on one side of the body
Numbness, weakness, or tingling in the face or on one side of the body can be a sign of stroke. This usually starts on the life side of the face and can spread throughout the body. A person having a stroke might have difficulty smiling or performing normal movements.
2. Sudden vision problems in one or both eyes
A stroke can lead to problems with eye movements. During an attack, notice that both eyes will have trouble working together as a pair. This makes it difficult for the person to focus on things due to blurred vision and diplopia (double vision). They may also experience fast or slow eye movements and may not move both eyes together in a particular direction.
3. Severe Headaches
If you develop a severe headache suddenly with no known cause, you might be having a stroke. This headache can come with nausea, dizziness, or vomiting.
4. Difficulty with Communication
During a stroke, some people may have trouble communicating. They may experience sudden confusion and have a hard time speaking or understanding speech. Slurred speech is also an indication that a person may be having a stroke.
5. Lack of Coordination
Stroke may lead to a lack of balance, coordination, and trouble walking for many people. If you are having a stroke, your balance may be off, and one leg may also feel heavy.
If you notice any of these symptoms, you need to call the emergency services immediately. Get the victim the help they need. Prompt first aid treatment can help minimise the long-term effects of the stroke. It could even save their lives.
Lower Your Risk of Stroke
Although there are some factors you cannot control, you can make lifestyle changes to lower your risk of stroke. Talk to your GP about what you can do. Even if you are in perfect health, we recommend following these suggestions:
Control your blood pressure
Regularly check your blood pressure. If it is high, follow your doctor’s advice to lower it. Treating high blood pressure can lower the risk of both stroke and heart disease.
Smoking highly increases your risk for stroke. It is never too late to stop smoking.
Control your cholesterol
High cholesterol level is associated with a relative risk of ischemic stroke. Cholesterol is a type of fat in the blood that can build up on the walls of your arteries. Over time, this can block the flow of blood and can result in a stroke. If you have high cholesterol, work with your doctor on ways to lower it.
Control your diabetes
For a person with diabetes, the chances of having a stroke are 1.5 times higher than those who don’t have diabetes. Diabetes, when left untreated, can damage blood vessels and narrow the arteries that may lead to stroke. Consult with your doctor and follow their suggestions on how to keep your diabetes under control.
Eat healthy food
Consume foods that are low in cholesterol and saturated fats. Include a variety of fruits and vegetables in your daily meals.
Get physically healthy
Exercise regularly and try to incorporate physical activity as part of your everyday life. Take a brisk walk, ride a bicycle, or go swimming. Talk with your healthcare provider if you want to start to do a fitness program or increase your physical activity.
If you have a history of stroke in the past, it is critical to reduce your risk of a second stroke. Your brain helps you recover by drawing on body systems that now do double duty. That means a second stroke can be twice as bad or much worse.
Keeping Elderly People Safe
Strokes are treatable but what is more important is that they are preventable. Being able to recognise the signs of stroke in the elderly is just one of the ways to keep them safe. The sooner you recognise the signs and apply first aid, the better chances of avoiding serious brain damage or disability.
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